manuscript lab

Provenance Studies

Case Study: G. Büchner "Woyzeck"

The drama “Woyzeck” by Georg Büchner (1813-1837) is one example of a manuscript that was written in different places. It is already known that Georg Büchner started composing his drama in Strasbourg. For political reasons, he went into exile in Zurich. However, it was not clear which part of the manuscript was written in Strasbourg and which one originated in Zurich. The investigation of the different iron gall inks by means of the fingerprint model revealed that the ink of the first version on pages in folio format has the same chemical composition as the ink Büchner used for his lecture “Spinoza”, which was definitely written in Strasbourg. Small horizontal deletion lines are also executed with the same iron gall ink. On the other hand, Büchner struck large sections in his first version with a different iron gall ink that he also used for another part – the second version – written on pages in quarto format. A comparison of this ink material with other inks surely used in Zurich clarified that this version was written in Zurich. These findings indicate that Georg Büchner wrote his first version in Strasbourg and took the manuscript along to Zurich. In Zurich, he wrote the second version with a new ink. During that process, he copied some first sketches and deleted them after acceptance in his second, final version. Some small corrections were already conducted in Strasbourg (Dedner et al. 2005).

Relative amounts of trace elements in different inks in the Woyzeck manuscript (folio format, quarto format) in comparison with Büchner’s “Spinoza” lecture (Enlarge)